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04 June 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Prof Cathryn Tonne
Air pollution not only costs lives, it costs money too. Pictured is Prof Cathryn Tonne presenting a guest lecture on air pollution at the Bloemfontein Campus.

Health effects associated with ambient air pollution (AAP) have been well documented. Subsequently, the relationship between pollution and financial outcomes have also become a focus for case studies globally. An Environmental Research journal article revealed that “low and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected by the global burden of adverse health effects caused by AAP”. 

A high price to pay

In 2012, high concentrations of air pollution caused 7.4% of all deaths, costing South Africa up to 6% of its Gross Domestic Product. According to the recent International Growth Centre study conducted by senior University of Cape Town researchers, this is a direct consequence of the country’s heavy dependence of fossil fuels, a source of health-damaging air pollution and greenhouse pollutants.

Stunted human and economic growth

These South African statistics are attested to by Prof Cathryn Tonne who recently presented a guest lecture on air pollution which was hosted by the University of the Free State (UFS) Business School.

“Air pollution can affect economic development through several pathways, and health is an important one. Air pollution is linked to shorter life expectancy, chronic disease, asthma exacerbation and many other health outcomes that result in absenteeism from work and school. These have large direct costs to the health system.” 

Prof Tonne says that air pollution exposure in children is linked to reduced cognitive development, with important impacts on human capital. As a result, children are not reaching their full potential in terms of neurodevelopment, which has an effect on their income prospects and the economy as a whole. 

Resolving a looming disaster

Technology may be employed to radically clean the air. Cities need to lead in the reduction of air pollution by promoting renewable energy, using active transport such as walking or cycling, and investing in infrastructure to make this safe and attractive. 

With researchers playing a major role in strengthening the case for aggressive air pollution control, the government needs to implement policies in order to control sources of air pollution. This global health and economic issue also requires individuals and communities to play their part to improve air quality.

News Archive

Global exercise initiative launched on Bloemfontein Campus
2012-03-14

 

Healthier and fitter Kovsies
Photo: Anja Aucamp
13 March 2012

Staff and students are getting ready to sweat this week with the launch of the worldwide Exercise is Medicine Programme on the Bloemfontein Campus on 14 and 15 March 2012.

The programme will be introduced for the first time in Africa and our university is the only African university that forms part of the launch.

Exercise is Medicine is an initiative which encourages health care providers to include exercise when designing treatment plans for patients. The programme designed by the American College of Sports Medicine and it has a presence in countries such as Australia, Italy, China and Brazil.

As part of the programme launch, staff and students will attend presentations by prominent health practitioners and participate in a range of fitness activities such as Taebo and Zumba. The Wellness Division of the Centre for Health and Wellness has more activities planned for the rest of the year to keep Kovsies healthy. This will include a cycling event and netball, volleyball and soccer games.

Dr Louis Holtzhausen, Head of the Division Sport and Exercise Medicine, says that it has been proved unequivocally that regular exercise is good for people's health.

"It is clear that regular exercise should not only be promoted by the medical profession, but that physical activity should be monitored and recorded by doctors as a major modifiable risk factor for morbidity and mortality."

Dr Holtzhausen says one of the goals of the Exercise is Medicine Programme is that physical activity becomes a vital sign to be recorded, with doctors routinely discussing it with their individual patients.

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